Thursday, March 31

Bronx Zoo Escaped Snake

File this under "couldn't have planned it if I tried"! And also the engaging power of social media.

Earlier this week, a small little cobra disappeared from the Bronx Zoo. Pretty dangerous little creature. Probably didn't really disappear or escape (couldn't survive the weather), but is most likely just hiding in the exhibit somewhere out of fear.

Suddenly he (is it a he?) appears on Twitter ... @bronxzooscobra ... and is talking about his adventures around Manhattan. No one knows who is actually doing the tweeting, and the zoo denies knowing anything about it. But the little fella has over 185,000 followers already, meanwhile the zoo itself only has about 6,000.

The guy is having a blast, and even has a hashtag now (#snakeonthetown).

Tweets like this: "Does anyone know if the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle sells organic mice?"

Or: "Give me your tired, your poor, your coiled masses earning to breathe free - powerful words at the Statue of Liberty"

He's conversing with businesses too: "Enjoying a cupcake @magnoliabakery. This is going straight to my hips. Oh wait, I don't have hips. Yesss."

And some are conversing back: The Hilton New York (@hiltonnewyork) wrote: "Do you have a place to stay in NY tonight? We can offer you the penthouse sssuite".

Now if this really is a marketing stunt from the Bronx Zoo then it's brilliant. But somehow I don't think they could have even planned this. It's so fun. But it is bringing a lot of attention to the reptile collection at the zoo, so it will clearly work in their favor. Sort of reminds me of "The Night at the Museum" movie with Ben Stiller.

Love it, let's follow to see where this goes! You can read a little more about it here.

What's your experience? Jim.

Wednesday, March 30

Dove Men+Care

For a brand that's been around as long as Dove has, it sure knows how to stay current. The "Campaign for Real Beauty" was brilliant, and really spoke to women in a way that truly connected. I have great admiration for that entire campaign. I was just at focus groups the other night for a new skin care treatment and I could hear elements of that messaging come through from the women. It has had incredible pop culture influence.

Now the brand has turned to men. Dove for men? A resounding yes, great new products and a new campaign designed to inspire self esteem in men now too.

The products do look great. A full line of body cleaners and deodorants specially formulated for men. Although quite honestly we can probably get that stuff from a host of places. As I always say, it's usually not the products that stand out and differentiate, it's the emotional connection and the branding.

"Without a great brand experience, you're just another product".

Well Dove nailed it with Dove Men+Care. Using some of basketball's greats, the brand launched an entire new campaign during March Madness called "comfortable in my own skin". Here basketball legends like Magic Johnson, John Thompson III, and Bobby Hurley all talk about their "journey to comfort." Basically the obstacles they went through to feel good about themselves.

Brilliant! So inspiration, so emotional, so dead-on. For men. Not easy to do.

The brand did an incredible job of recreating the "campaign for real beauty" into a message for men: "be comfortable in your own skin".

Bravo.

What's your experience? Jim.

Tuesday, March 29

Positioning in the Cola Wars

If you are into marketing, you've probably been watching (at some level) the cola wars for decades now. The continual fight for #1 between Coca Cola and Pepsi, that is. There was a time when Pepsi used to bounce in and out of that position, although Coca Cola has had it now for awhile with Pepsi a close second. We're talking the full sugar versions here.

Just last week, there was a major change to that dynamic. Diet Coke took over the number two spot, bumping Pepsi into third place. If you are in the soft drinks biz, this is huge! The Coca Cola company has the two lead sodas with regular Coke and Diet Coke. Wow.

The truth is that the cola market is huge, and growing by the minute. With so many products that all seem kind of the same, how do you keep it all straight? Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, etc ... mind boggling.

One of my students from the class I taught at NYU weighs in on how the different versions are positioned. Give it a read below, I hope you'll find it interesting.

Oscar, what's your experience? Jim.

Recently I've been intrigued by two very similar Coca Cola products that offer the same physical benefits -- cola flavor without any calories. What I find so interesting is the two very different positionings, personalities, and marketing strategies coming from such similar products. In thinking it through, I instantly thought of the movie "Top Gun."

Diet Coke -- the Maverick of diet colas. The personality is young, successful, and confident -- "Stay Extraordinary." They used the Oscars as the initial marketing platform, but then have extended it beyond. Campaign is here.

Then Coke Zero -- the Goose of diet colas. This brand is funny and a bit of a goof ball. This has been the product personality since the Coke Zero / Mentos car viral video. Their most recent platform has been during March Madness with funny goof ball commercials and face painters -- gotta love 'em.

It is so fascinating to see products that are physically so similar yet can be marketed emotionally differently to meet the needs of different audiences. I guess just one question left unanswered -- who is Iceman here?

- Oscar Caicedo, student at NYU


Monday, March 28

How Do You Replace An Icon?

In a way, this is a follow up to my blog post last week on benchmark brands. Brands that define a category, and create an instant standard in our minds.

Elizabeth Taylor is a benchmark brand. She set the standard in so many ways.

Two time Academy Award winning actress. Basically defined romance on the silver screen -- and had a Hollywood lifestyle that kept her current and in the news. Check out "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" and you'll see what acting is all about.

Fashion and Jewels. The most glamorous woman of her time, hands down. Her love affair with fashion, particularly jewelry, is legendary. I have a coffee table book showcasing it all, and it's amazing. Her couture collection sells at auctions at record prices.

Business Woman. Her "White Diamonds" perfume set the stage for the celebrity fragrance industry and still remains the best selling celebrity fragrance worldwide. Can you believe it? Still beats Jennifer Anniston, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, you name it. Elizabeth Taylor set the bar and still raises it.

Activist. This is definitively where she has made the biggest impact, and also created the most loyal admirers. Elizabeth Taylor was the first public figure to truly embrace the AIDS crisis and do something about it. Like going and visiting patients and touching them. Raising money for them. Staying with them day after day, year after year. She personally changed people's perceptions of AIDS patients, right from day one. She couldn't help it, most of her friends were gay. But she also knew who had brought her success and she was going to pay them back. Very admirable. We will never forget what she has done.

Elizabeth Taylor. An icon on so many fronts. Completely irreplaceable.

What's your experience? Jim.

PS - Elizabeth Taylor had written into her will that she wanted to arrive to her own funeral 15 minutes late. She always wanted to be "fashionably late"! Those close to her kept her wishes and sure enough she arrived 15 minutes late to her own funeral. Love her.

Friday, March 25

Aflac Auditions

It's been a tough month for employees on Twitter. First the gentleman from Detroit was fired for an f-bomb on Chrysler's Twitter account, and now Gilbert Gottfried loses his gig as the Aflac duck after insensitive comments on Twitter about the disaster in Japan. Don't know if you saw them, but they were actually pretty bad. It's hard to have a sense of humor about something so horrific so close to the events. Ouch.

But Aflac is handling it like a marketing pro. Very unceremoniously, they almost instantly cut Gilbert Gottfried as the voice and released a statement. Said and done. What they've done since, though, is brilliant.

The brand is going public with auditions. Taking audition tapes from voice over talent on their website and announcing it online and in television commercials. So smart. Involve your consumers in your quest and turn a public pr nightmare into a positive.

They've even got the "job" posted on Monster.com!

Finally, a brand that knows how to handle public relations and public sentiment. Good going. If you've got a good voice, "take a quack at it!".

What's your experience? Jim

Thursday, March 24

Benchmark Brands

I guess in a way this is a follow-up post to one that I wrote last week about default brands. Brands that you choose over and over again by default, almost out of mindless routine. Potentially good, but a bit risky for the brand itself. Our brands need to be more engaged with our consumers if we really want breakthrough success.

Perhaps at the opposite end of the spectrum is the notion of a "benchmark" brand. A brand that sets a standard for a consumer, one that symbolizes something special that no other brand can touch. There is such an emotional connection that it becomes the gold standard in a consumer's mind.

Like walking into a party and seeing Veuve Clicquot champagne sitting in ice buckets. A benchmark brand because you know the host has gone all out and it's going to be a fun night.

You meet a blind date and she walks in with a Louis Vuitton bag. Benchmark brand that says she's concerned about how people perceive her and she's had success in her life. Or better yet, you finally are able to get one yourself, and that feeling you have when you walk out the store with that brown shopping bag in tote. Benchmark brand.

A family trip to Disney World, like you imagined you would do when you had kids and they were old enough (but not too old) to really enjoy the time together. Benchmark brand.

You visit a friend and notice that they have Tropicana orange juice in their fridge. Sign of a well stocked fridge with healthy choices. Benchmark brand.

I had my own benchmark brand experience this past weekend. I've been on Weight Watchers since January 1st (classic New Year's Resolution) to trim down and shape up. I have a favorite pair of Diesel jeans, size 30, that I have not been able to wear for probably 3 years. Those jeans are a symbol to me of fitness and style.

Benchmark brand.

I got the courage up to try them on again, just to see how far from goal I am. Happy to say that they slipped right on, buttoned right up, and I was still able to bend over and even eat lunch later on. Score!

Those jeans, particularly that brand and size, have become my benchmark.

What an amazing space to occupy in consumers' minds, being a benchmark brand. Not everyone can do it, and it's not always about price or style. Tylenol had it for a long time. Coca-Cola does for some people. It's about an emotional connection that can't be compared.

What's your benchmark brand ... what's your experience? Jim.

PS - My book "The Experience Effect" won the Silver Medal yesterday for best marketing book at the Axiom Business Book Awards. So psyched!


Wednesday, March 23

March Madness Social Media

I grew up in Syracuse, NY so I grew up on college basketball. We had season tickets and would go to every game we could, even before the University built the Carrier Dome to house the record breaking attendance. So of course, our lives centered around The Big East and March Madness. You have to remember, too, that March is still the middle of winter in those parts, so it gave us something to do.

Now being so far removed, it's really now just a memory but I still have fun with the March Madness brackets. And I have to admit that it's fun tracking it all on social media. I love seeing the tweets and Facebook posts from my friends, my friends who probably actually care about the outcome of the games much more than I do. For me it's the social following that is interesting.

And the marketing.

The big brands have entered the madness as well, and not just with advertising. They're online and in all the social media places, creating content where die hard fans (of the game and of the brand) can engage with each other and increase the sport of it all.

Coca-Cola created a social hub that aggregates all the activity. Dove hired celebrity players to post their experiences. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups is hosting an online sweepstakes to sink a half-court basket for a million dollars. That's just scratching the surface.

We should probably do a bracket for which brand will come out the winner.

What's your experience? Jim.

Tuesday, March 22

World Water Day

Today is March 22nd, World Water Day. The day we commit to bring safe drinking water to those in need around the world. The "day" was established in 1993 by The United Nations. Although the organization has made tremendous progress, one out of eight people in the world still do not have access to clean water. Hard to believe.

So the fight just has to spread. This year, the organization is getting social by asking supporters to post status updates on Facebook and Twitter to generate donations. You give them your Facebook and Twitter access and they post for you. Spreading the word around the world using the vast networks of supporters -- although started in 1993, it's very 2011.

Even restaurants are getting into the act. Around the country, participating restaurants are accepting $1.00 donations for tap water and giving it all to World Water Day via UNICEF and Project Tap. Brilliant.

And then there's Groupon. An anonymous donor in Chicago is matching $15 donations in support of World Water Day. Now there's a way to use social couponing on the local level to raise money for charity!

All to teach us that we shouldn't take it all for granted, even something we are used to getting in abundance for free. Certainly making me think twice, particularly as we watch tragedy and suffering around the world.

What's your experience? Jim.

Monday, March 21

SxSW Group Texting

Every year it's fun to see what comes out of SxSW, which was last week down in Austin. It's gotten to be quite the event for movies, technology, and music. How Austin nailed it down and keeps it growing is one of marketing's great mysteries. The thing is physically and culturally huge.

Something cool always comes out of it - there's always one big thing that captures everyone's attention.

Last year it was FourSquare - the social networking, location-based phenomenon got all the buzz. This year?

Group texting. Not the most sexiest of ideas I would say. Even somewhat predictable. But huge nonetheless.

There are now quite a few platforms out there that allow groups to text together, kind of like the old chat rooms back in the day. Or a private version of the Twitter #hashtag which has also caught on like wildfire.

Designated groups of people can now (at lightening speed) communicate with each other on their cell phones. So logical, so smart, so convenient, so "conference call". The applications for social communication are obvious, but also think about groups at work using it. Could speed up communication immensely amongst teams managing projects.

And think of the marketing. Look at what American Idol did for audience participation via texting, imagine what brands and entertainment properties will do with this feature now. Group commenting, group voting, you name it. I love it all!

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, March 18

Customized Advertising

We have certainly seen it with direct mail - the notion of customizing the creative and the messaging coming from a brand based on the demographics and even psychographics of a specific target audience. One set of zip codes gets one mailer, and another set gets an all together different one. Based on the makeup of the audiences in each area. That, is so 1983.

The concept is now moving into television, though, and it's likely to be just in time. Customized television advertising.

It's been happening for awhile now, to some degree. Certain feeds into certain areas of the country where brands could test out different messages. But now, based on viewing data and household information, brands can target messages to different households to make the message much more relevant to those watching. Or to skip those households who would never be interested in the brand.

Imagine that. I don't buy beer. Never. So beer advertisers are completely wasting their money channeling beer advertising to my house. The brand would be much better served by targeting households were there are beer buyers and consumers watching the programming. And specifically their kind of beer buyers.

This could honestly "save" advertising. Many in the industry have been saying that advertising is "dead", and while I am not one of them I certainly do think that advertising needs some evolution. And this is it.

Allowing brands to craft specific messages to specific audiences, while still getting mass reach is enough to keep television advertising as a vibrant part of the marketing mix. Not just for mass reach and awareness, but for trial and repeat purchase as well.

I am going to enjoy watching and helping to drive this innovation! I was recently quoted in an article on this very topic, if you'd like to read it here.

What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, March 17

Default Brands

My friend Audrey Binkowski introduced me to this concept of "default" brands. Brands you are loyal to by default. You may not know why, it's almost just a matter of convenience.

For many, Starbucks is a default brand. They stop in every single morning, out of routine, and grab the usual. By default. Is it the best they could get, the most convenient, the most value -- maybe not. It's just the usual.

We probably all have certain default brands. Brands we just automatically choose. Toothpaste, laundry detergent, breakfast cereal. Is this good?

Yes and no. On the one hand, it smacks of brand loyalty. Something had to have happened to spark the continued usage. Somewhere along the line there was trial, satisfaction, and repeat.

But that's not enough for me -- it sounds lazy and disengaged. Not good, not bad, not bad enough to switch. It's opening up a competitive opportunity. As soon as something better does come along, guess what? Gone is the default brand.

I'd rather be an engaged brand. One that is changing dynamically all the time. One that infiltrates my consumer's life and grows with her. Changes with her. Becomes one with her. One that is not a default, but a daily choice. A conscious decision to choose because it is the best. Continually the best. Now that's brand loyalty that could never be challenged.

For me personally, that's my Paul Smith shirts. Love them. They are not default, but a conscious choice every season and every day. I'm fully engaged and they have become a part of my own personal brand. Nothing habitual about it at all. Very conscious actually.

Now it is true that one man's default brand may be another man's engaged brand, and that's ok. It's called targeting and personal choice!

What are your brands -- what's your experience? Jim.

Wednesday, March 16

White Label Packaging for Cigarettes

In a follow up my blog post commenting on the FDA getting involved in cigarette packaging, it looks like England is taking it a step further. The government there is calling for no branding what-so-ever on any cigarette packaging. None. Just a white label box with warnings on it. Sort of like my other blog post where one of my students described what it's like to live in a brand-less world!

There's a quick report on it here, courtesy of Yahoo video.

Imagine that, no branding on any cigarette packaging. No colors, no logos, no Marlboro.

The government claims that this move will be particularly effective against younger consumers, those who may be just starting to smoke. Stripping the branding, and I guess the "glamour", off the packaging may make it less intriguing -- or at least that is the theory.

It's probably true, that's what branding does. It adds desire and intrigue. And packaging sets off cues, particularly at the point of purchase, of all the imagery the brand has been communicating in other vehicles. It also repeats that intrigue with every use.

I'm torn. On the one hand, I am very anti-smoking for some very personal reasons. I've seen too many people I know suffer and I don't understand why you would subject yourself to such a severe health risk. So part of me says we should do whatever it takes to deter smoking. It's public safety.

But on the other hand, I am a free market economist. And a marketer. Not sure I like the government dictating marketing elements to such an extreme. It's a slippery slope and what comes next? Alcohol? Birth control? OTC products? Within clearly defined and strict guidelines built on ethics, marketers should be allowed to do fair and responsible marketing.

Have to say that those images of stark cigarette packaging certainly make smoking seem a whole less sexier -- especially when loaded with messaging about safety. But is it a sign of more to come?

What's your experience? Jim.

PS - This week is National Book Week so please check out "The Experience Effect". Appreciate it!

Monday, March 14

Zippo

What's a brand to do when it sees its market shrinking? It can certainly hunker down and hang on to what it's got, squeezing profits until they are gone. Or it can also completely reinvent, completely changing its essence and moving on. Or it can take the brand's assets to new places.

That's exactly what Zippo plans to do. Zippo as in the lighters. Who knew that this brand had so much going on?

Smoking is on the decline, so certainly sales of lighters are as well. The Zippo brand has done everything it can to remain cool in a declining category -- waterproof, windproof, iconic designs -- the brand has impressively been pulling out all the stops. Take a look at their website. Very well done.

In an effort to "never give up", Zippo is taking their strong brand equity and going after men with entire new product lines that include a fragrance (don't worry, doesn't smell like lighter fluid), clothing, watches, and camping supplies (not sure about that part). The brand is even going to have retail outlets, starting with a boutique in Soho NYC. I guess in a way Zippo is trying to be the new Swiss Army Knife. You can read about in this article from The Wall Street Journal.

Good for them -- it's a stretch for sure, especially in this economy, but a good one. It's great to see brands continuing to invest and evolve with changing consumer behaviors and attitudes. And it's also great to see another brand for men, they don't come along that often.

There's no reason why they can't turn a very strong heritage brand into a successful lifestyle brand for men. It's certainly an investment, but I say go for it!

What's your experience? Jim.

Sunday, March 13

The Errant Tweet


It was the tweet heard 'round the world last week as a (now former) employee of a (now former) Chrysler agency sent out a tweet from the Chrysler Twitter account with the f-bomb in it. Ouch -- a one off that has caused a lot of drama.

He claims that he thought he was sending it from his personal account and in fact he did delete it very quickly. The company also sent out an apology, nicely done. But cyber-space moves fast and within moments it was retweeted enough to do the damage.

With tweet decks and multiple accounts that many community managers operate, it's very believable that he did indeed think he was using his personal account. He most likely really thought that -- can't blame him for that. But we need to learn two lessons from this:

1 - Cyber-space creates a permanent record of everything we do and say. What may take a nano-second to put out there, stays out there for eternity. We all have to be very careful about what we say and do. And as I tell my team and my kids, don't ever send anything out there when you are mad.

2 - Every action you take creates your personal brand. Every email, Facebook posting, and tweet all adds up to how people perceive you, particularly people who only know you online. Your personal brand, both at work and at play, has to be managed very carefully if you want to achieve your goals. One bad decision can derail you, as I am sure that this gentleman from Detroit learned.

All this social media "stuff" is certainly fun and it can certainly build brands, but we have to recognize its power and use it all very carefully.

You are what you tweet, evidently.

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, March 11

Subway - Larger Than Life

Is it a sign of the times or just plain 'ole good business?

Earlier this week, Subway announced that it is now the largest worldwide food chain, surpassing McDonald's with the most number of locations. No small feat.

Certainly a sign of the times. With a positioning of "healthier food", it was only a matter of time before we would see (hopefully see) Subway's business soar. The truth is that there are not that many healthy options when you are on the run. I recently shared my comments on airport food -- almost impossible to find something that isn't fried, riddled with fat, or all carbs.

With Subway now much more accessible, I for one know what I am choosing. We have an obesity problem in this country, and one way to fight it is the availability of good food choices. Thank you Subway for helping to help. The menu options are terrific and the way that you help us navigate the menu is wonderful.

But it's also just plain 'ole good business. Subway has done an amazing job marketing its concept. From Jared as spokesperson and losing all the weight to calorie/fat counters to partnerships with Weight Watchers to prime locations in shopping outlets - the brand is "out there" with its message (and its promise). While other chains have "healthy" choices as well, Subway has brought it to the masses.

The key to their success? Ride a pop culture trend and do it right -- then you just might be the world's largest food chain! Subway: a sign of the times and just plain 'ole good business.

What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, March 10

Starbucks 40th Anniversary

When Starbucks announced its new logo earlier this year, they said that it was just the start of something big. We got all a twitter about it, but I for one thought it was a bold move. The brand appeared to be expanding beyond just coffee, and was certainly trying to create a more iconic identity. Or so it seemed to me.

Well it's the brand's 40th Anniversary and the celebration is kicking into gear.

This week we saw the new cups with the new logos finally hit the marketplace -- and the launch of a new drink (cocoa cappuccino) -- and the introduction of a series of small snacks called Petites.

But most exciting for me is the new television spot. I've personally never seen a television campaign from the brand and this is a winner. Not so much because of the creative (not particularly breakthrough at all), but because of the messaging -- and the continuation of the promise that the brand has made to us this year.

"You are more important than you know," is the theme -- tied to self esteem and also, by the way, to the success of the brand. Complete with an offer to try the Petites for free in honor of the 40th Anniversary. Most important -- the introduction of the ultimate brand reposition -- "It's Bigger Than Coffee."

Check it out here.

My point -- the brand promised a big evolution this year, starting with a new logo, and they sure seem to be living up to it. So far. Could Starbucks be doing more? Absolutely. But it really is much much bigger than coffee -- literally with the range of products but also emotionally with how the brand has infiltrated our lives. Every single day.

Brilliant!

What's your experience? Jim.

(on a side note, I've seen a lot of the stores going through renovation this year as well)


Wednesday, March 9

#winning

Winning. Well it certainly is the word of the week (as my sister Lynn says) and the pop culture trend of the moment, all thanks to our friend Charlie Sheen.

Not sure how I feel about it.

On the one hand, it's fabulous. This inescapable American desire to excel, to conquer odds, to fight the good fight and come on top. I love it, I do it every day, we all do it every day.

But on the other hand, it's coming from, well, a weird place. Hard to feel good about where it's coming from, I'm sorry to say. He has certainly seized the moment, which is what winning is all about. And he certainly has captured all of our attention and he's clearly turning it into profit. He certainly, in many ways, is living the American dream.

As I continue to think it through, winning (excuse me, #winning) is what marketing is all about as well. We work to get just the right branding and positioning nailed down, with just the right target audience, to be in a place where we can sell more than our competition, so that we can come out on top. Marketing is all about #winning.

I think I'm just going to go with it, focus on the positive side of all of this (not much else that I can personally do). I'm going to ride the wave of positive sentiment and all that #winning is about. I'm going to drink some #tigerblood and make this my day.

Charlie Sheen, thanks for that. Now please go get some help, that's part of the American dream too.

What's your experience? Jim.

Tuesday, March 8

Frank Gehry New York

Proving my point that almost anything can be a brand -- even an architect. Frank Gehry. I've been a fan of his work for years. The man has a signature style and look that is all his own. A certain brand of architecture, if you will. He basically "owns" what is considered to be contemporary architecture.

Frank Gehry is probably best known for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Disney Theater in LA, and his own private residence in Santa Monica, CA. He also built a very cool office building right down the street from me in Manhattan. It lights up like a crown jewel at night.

I happened to catch a great overview of his career on tv recently, and it was absolutely fascinating. The reporter was covering Frank's newest building to go up, a very cool design that has changed the downtown NYC skyline -- and is the tallest residential building in the United States. I paid particular attention to the show because I had just a few months back noticed the new building while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on a lazy, beautiful Sunday afternoon.

(btw - walking over the Brooklyn Bridge is a NYC must!)

When I saw the building, not knowing what it was, I literally said out loud, "That must be a Frank Gehry building." Sure enough, this little tv segment proved me right.

The man is incredible. Great lines, striking features, unexpected twists and turns -- I'm talking of course about the buildings he creates. If you don't know his work and if you are at all into architecture or creativity, you should check him out. He is a very unique brand. And very inspiring.

What's your experience? Jim.

Monday, March 7

Diet Coke "Stay Extraordinary"

I would love to get everyone's take on this.

What do you think of the current campaign from Diet Coke that seems to be growing and growing across multiple media channels. We talked about it quite a bit while we were tweeting live during The Oscars (on Twitter at #OscarExp) -- Diet Coke was a major sponsor and aired several spots throughout the night.

For me, the jury is still out but it is growing on me. I just don't think that a diet soda can claim to help keep someone extraordinary. We are all trying to cut back, if anything. It just doesn't seem like a promise that is relevant and appropriate for the category.

But having said that, I do kind of get it. Diet Coke is what keeps us going. It's not about being on a diet anymore certainly. It's a little bolt of energy, cold and refreshing, right before we need to get something done. I'll admit that I still partake, even though I am cutting back.

So in concept, the notion kind of makes sense. The advertising shows little snapshots of people drinking a Diet Coke right before a big speech, or a class, or going into care for someone. Out of home advertising encourages us to "Stay Extraordinary." Banner ads are all over the internet at all hours of the day and night.

But I want to hear what you think. One of the comments on #OscarExp was, "What else do you expect them to do?" Fair point.

You can watch one of the executions here. Beautifully produced with great music. Really sucks you in. But is it believable?

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, March 4

Charlie Sheen on Twitter

It's been quite a week for Charlie Sheen. I've stayed away from the controversy for the most part, because I just don't care and it's all just a bit too much. But I do find his new obsession with Twitter to be interesting.

Fastest growing Twitter handle to date. Over a million followers in less than 24 hours. It's now up to over 1.4 milltion. He hit the ground running, with an even faster uptake than likes of Twitter aficionados Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber.

How? Why? To connect with his audience, as he says? Maybe. To have a voice in yet another channel? For sure. To publicly showcase his meltdown - well that's why people are following.

The truth is that there is also money to be made. Twitter is a huge source of revenue for those who use it wisely and for those who have considerable power in the social media outlet. Big time celebrities can reportedly get up to $10,000 a tweet. Not sure if it really works that way, but certainly Twitter requirements are now built into many a celebrity endorsement contract.

A recent TwitPic of Charlie in a branded milk t-shirt sent thousands to that brand's site. And they took advantage of it. Will other brands want in on the action, Charlie Sheen's action?

So while we are watching the antics, also pay close attention to the marketing. It'll be interesting to see where he goes. And who he "endorses".

What's your experience? Jim.

PS - In the meantime, I wish someone would help him and he would accept it.


Thursday, March 3

Sandals Weddings by Martha Stewart

I always say that really good marketing is about making good decisions. Good decisions based on data, judgement, brand equity, and true consumer understanding. When you look at the evolution of great brands, you'll often see a string of really smart decisions.

Like Nike. Consistently good decision making over the years as they have expanded product lines, introduced new spokespeople, opened up retail stores, and gone into new markets. Consistently good decision making.

Now contrast that with Martha Stewart. A brand that I personally respect a lot, having nothing to do with my personal feelings about Martha Stewart the person or Martha Stewart the celebrity. When you examine the chronology of the brand, however, I believe you see a series of some pretty good decisions mixed with some not so good. Turns out that The Martha Stewart Apprentice Show was not so good. Events leading to jail time, not so good. Partnerships with Macy's, Michaels, and American Express - pretty good.

The latest? A partnership with Sandals Resorts where you can have a Martha Stewart destination wedding. Not so sure.

It's an all-inclusive package that you can purchase to have a fully-loaded tricked-out wedding, complete with caterer, flowers, hotel rooms, and festivities right at one of the Sandals Caribbean locations.

The advertising - almost an infomercial - was a bit cheesy. The website, ok. Can't exactly put my finger on it, but it just doesn't feel right. In many ways it should be fine, her weddings publications have done very well. And she certainly knows food and catering. But there's just something about it that doesn't feel right.

I don't think the brand equities match at all, and I have a sense that it wasn't a good decision for the Martha Stewart brand.

What do you think ... what's your experience? Jim.




Wednesday, March 2

And The Winner Is ...


... Calvin Klein!

I have not said a lick about the fashion from The Academy Awards, not a lick. Probably because I got so caught up in the advertising and the spectacle that was James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Can you blame me?

But the truth is that Oscar night really is about the fashion, and it's the fashion designers' night to shine .... and to market. These labels only have a few moments where they really can market themselves, so they need to work it. It's all about getting the buzz and the photo opp that lives beyond the night itself.

If you notice, the dresses were pretty evenly spread across most of the big designers. They each seemed to have one big chance. Vera Wang, Marchesa, Dior, Valentino, Versace, etc. Only a few designers made it on more than one of the big showcased actresses.

Rumor has it that Natalie Portman was supposed to wear Dior, but made a last minute change given the "news". Jennifer Hudson made a big splash in Versace, but it was more about her Weight Watchers body than anything else. And Cate Blanchett caused a stir with Givenchy, but opinions were spread from good to bad.

Anne Hathaway changed eight times on stage, plus her red carpet dress. Each one from a different designer. The marketing moment of the year would have been if one designer "sponsored her". That would have been cool.

Little did we know that there was also a Design Challenge happening at the same time. Nine up-and-coming designers were competing to have their dress worn by the "escort" on stage. The winner was chosen by the public online. This was the third year in a row and it went totally under the radar. Cool idea, but it needs more promo for us to notice (or care).

For me, the winner was Calvin Klein. Not a new comer by any means, and not any where near as flashy as many of the others. Simple style, straight lines. Not something I am necessarily known for in my own clothing choices! Calvin Klein dressed Jennifer Lawrence and Gwyneth Paltrow and they both looked amazing. A double hit in my book.

Although we have all focused on the disastrous portions of the night, I think it's time to give fashion its due credit. It was a great night. (although I have not had a chance to hear from Joan yet!)

What's your experience? Jim.

Tuesday, March 1

Who is James Franco?

Gotta give the guy credit. He captured more attention than any dress, winner, or f-bomb the entire night. We watched him non-stop for 3.5 hours plus all the trailers leading up to the big night. But I still don't feel like I know him

I am left with the burning question .... who is James Franco?

I first "met" him with Spider Man and he was brilliant. This year he was an Oscar nominated leading man. I come to find out that he is a graduate student at NYU and also a soap opera star. Playing a serial killer.

Who is James Franco?

The Academy Awards didn't answer the question. He was distant, stiff, cold, you name it. We certainly didn't get to know him. Not like we know Anne Hathaway anyway.

I find it fascinating, not because he made a bore out of the single biggest pop culture moment of the year but because I can't figure him out. He doesn't seem to care. From a personal branding perspective, I can't peg him. Can't position him. One moment in drag, the next in a tux, the next in a leaked video of a scene from Grease.

Maybe that's the point. Many have called him a renaissance man because he has his head in so many places, doing so many things that don't readily connect. Maybe that's it.

And he carries a flipcam where ever he goes, even backstage with Oprah. Oprah!

What's your experience? Jim.